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Chipping Sparrow     

Identification and Pictures

(Spizella passerina)Chipping sparrow

Chipping sparrows are small, slim, gray sparrows, with long, slightly notched tails; about 5 inches.  They have a bright rufous cap, a streaked brown back, streaked wings with two white wing bars, a black line through the eye, and a white line over it.  A gray band runs across the nape of its neck.  They have a dark conical bill.  In winter the adults are browner, the breast is not quite as gray, the eyebrow line is duller, and the bill will turn pinkish.  Younger birds are buffer, have a light stripe through the crown, and have light streaks on the breast.  In early days in the U.S., it was called the hair bird because of its use of horse hair in its nests.  

Photos by Keith Lee.  The camera I use is the Canon EOS 40D.

Song and Call

chipping sparrowChipping sparrows were named for their song, which is a series of chipping sounds that can sound like long trill.  They like to sing this from a high perch.  Call notes are a short chip, and seet sound.
Listen to Chipping sparrow.

Range and Habitat

Chipping sparrows range across most of Canada, and the U.S. in summer, migrating south, usually in flocks, to the southern U.S., and Mexico for the winter.  They like open woodlands, conifer forests, towns, farms, and grassy areas such as residential yards.  

Breeding and Nesting

chipping sparrowChipping sparrows are usually monogamous, however males may have more than on mate.  The males arrive to breeding areas before the females, and establish territories.  The pair will choose a nesting site in a tree or bush together.  The female builds a loose cup nest of weeds, grass, and rootlets, lined with hair.  The male will feed the female while she incubates 3 to 5 light blue speckled eggs for 10 to 12 days.  After hatching, both adults will feed the young birds until they leave the nest in 9 to 12 days, and another 3 weeks after that.  They usually only have one brood per season.    

Food and Feeding

Chipping sparrows eat mostly seeds, but also eat insects.  They usually forage in open areas, on or near the ground, running, hopping, and stopping to scratch the ground with their feet.  Outside of breeding season they forage in flocks.  They will visit backyard seed feeders.

 

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